I remember my annual checkup last fall. My doctor prescribed one procedure he wanted me to undergo to help determine the actual condition of my heart. An electrocardiogram (EKG) is a test to measure the heart’s electrical activity, which helps a doctor assess your heart’s health.
Is there a test today to assess the spiritual condition of someone? Is there a spiritual EKG? If so, what would it say about our spiritual health? Check out one of my favorite stories in Scripture.
Read John 3:1-7.
One day a man named Nicodemus was given a spiritual EKG. If you examined him from head to toe, you would have thought he was very healthy spiritually. He looked solid, knew his Jewish beliefs, he had a strong spiritual heartbeat (he was known as a Pharisee, a respected Jewish religious leader), and many in the community trusted him due to his example
John also indicated Nicodemus was open to new spiritual ideas, which was evident from him pursuing Jesus one night. Apparently, the teachings of this new Jewish rabbi from Nazareth had aroused his interest. The chance that Jesus might actually be the Messiah brought Nicodemus to Jesus under the cover of darkness. Was he afraid to be seen with Jesus during the day? Or did he figure that a long talk would be more possible at night, far away from the crowds around Jesus?
Nicodemus questioned Jesus and was startled to learn he was speaking of a Kingdom not of this world. He offered a way of life, “born of water and the Spirit,” that intrigued Nicodemus. Jesus spoke with an authority that indicated what he said applied to everyone. In v 7, Jesus said, “You…must…be born again” to enter this Kingdom. Two words with weight: You and must.
Jesus used a common rabbinic term for a Gentile who decided to undergo a formal conversion to Judaism. Gentiles who were “born again” as Jews were believed to be brand new beings. When Nicodemus objected and asked, “How can a man be born when he is old?” it was not because the language confused him. He was arguing with Jesus, saying, “I am already Jewish. How can I convert to Judaism?” Jesus answered, “A man must be born of water and Spirit.”
In other words, Jesus was telling Nicodemus that to be ethnically and religiously Jewish was not enough (or adequate) for entrance into God’s family. A spiritual conversion of the heart is what was really necessary. Being born again is not believing and/or following a bunch of rules and regulations simply about outward behavior: it involves getting an extreme makeover of the heart from God, through faith in Jesus alone. External activity (even conformity) without internal conversion is the path to empty living, and ultimately a Christ-less eternity.
My EKG showed my physical heart was strong and functioning well. How would Jesus’ assessment of your heart turn out? Have you experienced new life as Jesus described? The old saying is still accurate…sinners sin because that is their natural tendency. Saints live a different lifestyle in daily experience because of their position in Christ (see Romans 6:1-13).
Do not repeat the mistake Nicodemus was making. Do not allow your knowledge of God to distance you from the very God you need to know and serve. Think theologically. If you are a new creature in Christ, how will you live differently this week? Heart change = behavior change.
Love is a verb,